Battling Thailand’s illegal dog meat trade

Every year tens of thousands of dogs are inhumanely transported from Thailand to neighboring countries where they are butchered for their meat. The Soi Dog Foundation and the Thai government are actively working to end this brutal and cruel practice. This story by by correspondent Tibor Krausz in The Christian Science Monitor relates the work of a retired British couple to put an end to the practice. The author also acknowledges the work done by Globe Aware volunteers to help Thai elephants.

John and Gill Dalley battle Thailand’s illegal dog meat trade

The British couple moved to Thailand to retire. But when they learned of the illegal capture and torture of dogs, their plans changed.

Buriram Province, Thailand ' You hear them before you see them. From inside seven well-equipped enclosures at an animal sanctuary within a remote forest in rural Buriram Province comes a canine cacophony of barks, woofs, and yelps. The spacious runs are home to some 1,500 dogs " young and old; big and small; white, tan, brown, spotted, blotched, dappled, and black. They loll in the shade, bicker over chew toys, or leap about, tails wagging, as visitors approach.

volunteer vacation ThailandUntil recently a terrible fate awaited all these dogs: They were destined for dinner tables. In Thailand' s clandestine dog meat trade countless dogs " pets and strays alike " have been seized from streets and outside homes by criminal gangs that cater to vendors and restaurants selling canine meat from Thailand to Vietnam.

John Dalley will have none of that. The retired chemical engineer from Leeds, England, and his wife, Gill, a former bank employee, set up the Soi Dog Foundation in 2003 on the tropical island of Phuket in southern Thailand, where the couple had just relocated for their retirement.   
Recommended: Difference Maker 6 organizations that protect animal rights

"We had a dog back home, but I wasn' t particularly involved with animal rights," recalls Mr. Dalley, a lanky, cordial man. "But you see these dogs [in Thailand] suffer, and you want to do something to help them."
Difference Maker 6 organizations that protect animal rights
Photos of the Day Photos of the Day 02/05

So they do. The animals here owe their lives to the Dalleys. Their charity has built a canine shelter with treatment and adoption areas. It pays for its operating costs through donations from Soi Dog' s global network of supporters.

The nonprofit has helped rescue thousands of dogs from being slaughtered. In the northeastern province of Sakon Nakhon, a hot spot for the underground dog meat trade, Soi Dog pays rewards to locals for tips on dog thieves and works with local police in arresting them.

The charity also has its own task force, which has intercepted dozens of trucks with cargoes of stolen dogs bound for Vietnam' s booming canine meat markets. The unit has also uncovered illegal butchers, tanneries, and holding centers, shutting them down and freeing scores of dogs.

According to the Thai Veterinary Medical Association, half a million Thai dogs were smuggled to Vietnam and China in 2011. Today the number is no more than one-third of that.

"The numbers are down. We' re winning," Dalley says. "But we have a long way to go yet."

To evade capture, the criminal gangs have changed their tactics. They used to transport dogs on torturous journeys across borders in cramped poultry cages without food or water, or hidden in sacks under their trucks' false floors. Not anymore.

"With the last two trucks we' ve caught, all the dogs had already been butchered with their meat placed in iceboxes," laments Varaporn Jittanonta, a nurse who works as Soi Dog' s relief coordinator. She' s standing beside kennels of young rescuees earmarked for adoption. Recently, four dogs from Buriram " easygoing Malt, bouncy Midnight, mischievous Sam, and affectionate Paige " were taken for adoption in the United States by the Virginia-based A Forever Home Rescue Foundation.

Yet successes in some areas come with setbacks in others. The drive spearheaded by Soi Dog to curb the cross-border dog meat trade has driven up demand for live dogs in Vietnam where thieves, often armed, scour villages and towns for unguarded pets.

"Dog thieves like to target pets because, unlike strays, they' re friendly and approachable," Dalley notes. "Pets also command better prices [at meat markets] because they' re healthy and well fed."  

In areas where dog meat is considered a delicacy, such as Thailand' s Sakon Nakhon Province and Hanoi, Vietnam, curbside food stalls sell roasted dogs and entire eateries specialize in dog meat dishes. The animals' skins often end up being used in leather goods, including golf gloves exported to the West.

"There are a lot of weird beliefs about dog meat," Dalley observes. "In Vietnam people like to eat it in winter because they consider it a warming dish. In [South] Korea they eat it in summer because they see it as a cooling dish. In Cambodia some men believe they gain virility from eating black dogs."

In Sakon Nakhon, a kilo (2.2 pounds) of dog meat jerky costs about 300 baht ($9) " the daily wages of a laborer. "It' s a luxury food," the Englishman notes.

"I abhor this trade because of the shocking cruelty involved in it," he says. No effort is made to ensure humane treatment of dogs before slaughter. In fact, the killing methods used can be intentionally brutal " still-conscious animals are often beaten or burned. Some in the trade believe the release of adrenalin in a frightened animal enhances the flavor of dog meat.

Recently, comedian Ricky Gervais, actress Judi Dench, and other British celebrities joined Soi Dog' s petition against Thailand' s "dark secret," endorsing the animal charity' s campaign in an online viral video. The move helped to put pressure on Thai lawmakers, whom Dalley has long been lobbying for more stringent animal welfare laws " or rather, for any meaningful legislation at all. Until recently, people who abused or maltreated animals faced only a small fine (the equivalent of $30).   

Then last December, after consultation with him and other animal rights advocates, Thailand' s parliament finally passed the country' s first Animal Welfare Bill, which has increased penalties to a maximum of two years in prison and 40,000 baht (around $1,200) in fines.

Yet for Dalley the new law has been a Pyrrhic victory: Despite his advice, Thai lawmakers failed to ban the slaughter of non-livestock animals for their meat and skin. "The only way to measure a law' s effectiveness is to see how it affects the level of crime it' s meant to stop," he says diplomatically. "We' ll see."

But it isn' t just dogs threatened by meat traders that need the Dalleys' help; many others do, too. Soi Dog provides emergency and veterinary care for abandoned pets and feeds hundreds of strays on the streets and at Buddhist temples.

The Dalleys also run a shelter and adoption center for some 400 dogs on their tourist island. Most arrive malnourished and diseased. Thanks to round-the-clock care from several veterinarians, dozens of other paid staff, and volunteers, hundreds of neglected and discarded dogs have made remarkable recoveries.

The couple also has had to overcome pain and sorrow. In October 2004, a stray dog, groggy from being tranquilized for a neutering procedure, fled into a boggy water buffalo field. To save him from drowning, Ms. Dalley waded in after him. Within days, however, she developed a serious bacterial infection. Eventually both her legs were amputated below the knee.

Then on Dec. 26 that same year a devastating Indian Ocean tsunami ravaged much of Phuket, claiming the life, among thousands of others, of a close friend of Gill' s who had been helping her save dogs.

"I went into shock for 24 hours," she recalls. A day later, though, using a wheelchair, she was out and about in the island' s worst-affected area helping counsel relatives of victims and tending to displaced dogs languishing without food and shelter.

She now uses prostheses to get around.

"As I was learning to walk again, I thought of the dogs that still needed my help," Gill says. "Pure joy for me is changing an animal' s life."

Her husband isn' t slowing down, either.

"I was going to spend my retirement in Thailand playing golf and diving," John says. "Instead, in all my time here I' ve gone diving once and never swung a club. But one thing I want to do before I die is to end the dog meat trade."

How to take action

Universal Giving helps people give to and volunteer for top-performing charitable organizations around the world. All the projects are vetted by Universal Giving; 100 percent of each donation goes directly to the listed cause. Below are links to the Soi Dog Foundation and Globe Aware, two organizations that protect animals in Thailand:

  • The mission of the Soi Dog Foundation is to improve the welfare of dogs and cats in Thailand, resulting in better lives for both the animal and human communities. Take action: Here are three Soi Dog Foundation programs seeking help. Support efforts to rescue dogs from the dog meat trade. Volunteer to help street dogs and cats. Donate $30 to give a stray animal medical treatment.
  • Globe Aware promotes sustainability, helping communities prosper without relying on outside aid. Take action: Volunteer to help elephants in Thailand.

The Christian Science Monitor

Voluntourism and solo travel is a niche blog that focuses exclusively on travel for women, products and tips. Highbrow or budget, hot spots or off the beaten path, eco-friendly, sustainable and smart travel choices. profiled Amy Angelilli, a socially responsible lifetime adventurer who' s visited at least 24 countries " and she continues adding a new one to that list every year. Amy shared her solo travel experiences and the big-draw of volunteer travel. Enjoy!

Travel… It’s Good for You!

Still scouring the Internet for an ideal adventure that' s right for you this year? Don' t be overwhelmed reading about other people' s adventures. What' s right for someone else isn' t necessarily right for you. What matters is that you have an authentic experience, get just a little bit out of your comfort zone and do, see or feel something you' ve never experienced before. It could be half way around the world, or, it could be just a short drive away. Make it yours and completely immerse yourself in it.

As a follow-up to my original piece about simple ways to add adventure to your travel, here are five more suggestions to get you packing. Hopefully one resonates with you, and, fits your lifestyle.

Stay local

It' s easy to stay at a chain hotel when traveling because it gives us comfort, as we know what to expect. Don' t do it. If you stay local, you not only put your dollars into the local economy, you' re able to cross the line between tourist and traveler " and that' s where the real adventure begins. To access these local opportunities, you might rent a place through, which offers unique stays from local hosts in more than 190 countries. I' ve stayed in a guesthouse on an organic farm in Tortola, in a guest room on the western hills of Portland, Oregon and in an Adobe house on ten acres in Southwest Colorado via Airbnb.

If you like pets, is a great resource as it connects home and pet owners who need a sitter. You' ll have the opportunity to stay at someone' s home (for free!) in exchange for taking care of the home and pets.

Go solo

Have you ever traveled with someone who just wasn' t on the same page " or schedule — as you? It' s a drag as you find yourself compromising on what to see and what to do every day. And, let' s face it " the trip is only so long, so to miss out on opportunities can be heartbreaking. The solution? Go alone and spend each day however you' d like. I traveled to an eco-camp on St. John over Thanksgiving a few years ago. This is an example of how not to travel alone. It was a remote location on an American holiday, so the facility was filled with couples and families. I made only one friend " a single woman traveling with her daughter — who had a rental jeep. For a few days, I had a friend " and a ride. However, the experience taught me a lesson. As a solo traveler, avoid holidays and seek out places to stay that attract other solo travelers. For more solo travel tips, visit " a solo female travel blog and the "She Travels Solo" page of

Go to camp

If you' ve longed to return to camp ever since you reached an age where you became too old to return to camp, now' s your chance. Summer camps for adults are exploding. And, some even cater to the solo traveler. At the Mac & Cheese Productions Life of Yes! Sleepaway Camp, you' re whisked away to an undisclosed location within a two-hour drive of Chicago " but that' s all your told. Everything is taken care of for you " lodging, meals and itineraries " so there' s nothing to worry about. And, the best part is that everyone comes solo, so you wouldn' t even be eligible to attend if you wanted to bring a friend.

If big is more your thing " big trees, big crowds and big productions " then get your backpack ready and head to Camp Grounded " summer camp for adults. A digital detox experience in the Redwoods where adults get to be kids again, Camp Grounded offers playshops, wellness activities, sustainable meals, and most importantly, live real-time conversations with real people " no digital devices needed. Summer of 2014 was my summer of camps " it impacted me so much that I just completed an old school style scrapbook of my experiences.

Participate in a volunteer program

Voluntourism is at an all-time high, as more people want to give back via their travel experiences. is a great resource to explore volunteer vacations. As you dig deeper about this kind of travel experience, you' ll discover a global debate raging regarding the value of volunteer travel. If you' re on the fence about where you stand, or, if you just don' t want to get your hands dirty, you can have your volunteer vacation be about nothing more than talking. Seriously! At VaughTown, native English speaking volunteers spend several days in a small Spanish town conversing with Spanish business people hoping to get better command of English. I participated in this program in 2003 and I' m still in touch with some of the friends I made there

Travel off-season

There are so many advantages to traveling off-season " the biggest being the cost. There are always bargains to be had, as there are fewer visitors coming through. Plus, if it' s a popular tourist destination, the locals tend to be more relaxed and open to conversation as they aren' t up to their eyeballs with tourists. I took this concept to the extreme about 15 years ago when I traveled to the island of Ibiza in February. It was a ghost town. But, there was one pub open and the British folks minding it gave us the royal treatment, making for an unforgettable evening. If off-season seems too much of a stretch, try shoulder season " bargains are still available, crowds are still thin and authentic connections are still easier to find.

May you find " and embrace " your own adventure in 2015. And remember, even if everything doesn' t turn out perfectly, an imperfect adventure is better than no adventure at all.

What tips would you like to add on why traveling is good for you? We’d love to hear. Drop a comment below or connect with your GoGirlfriends on Facebook or Twitter!

About Amy Angelili

Amy Angelilli is a socially responsible lifetime adventurer who' s visited at least 24 countries " and she continues adding a new one to that list every year. Between trips, she moved from Philadelphia to Denver in an RV filled with rescue pets, and opened a low cost spay/neuter clinic for stray cats so she wouldn' t have to adopt any more. Now, as Chief Adventure Officer of The Adventure Project, she uses improvisational theater techniques to play with others so that they may discover and create their own adventures " at home or abroad.

Volunteer Vacations’ Growing Popularity

vOLUNTEER VACATIONS POPULAR" Volunteer vacations' a popular trend for many

By Jackie Runion

Marietta Times

Anyone vowing to travel or to make a difference in the new year can do both at the same time in the form of a “volunteer vacation.”

A number of companies, organizations and programs exist to offer people of all ages a chance to volunteer and help others while on vacation, whether it be either a car ride or a long plane trip away.

A popular trend that comes in the form of mission trips, alternative spring breaks and state and nationally-organized charity projects, the concept of volunteer tourism can give people a chance to get out of their backyards and also make an impact in their state, country or in a community overseas.


Volunteer vacation opportunities

Volunteer Match

  • Features: Database directory of service opportunities for 99,000 nonprofits across U.S. that provide search-by-location and service-type engines.
  • Requirements: Vary by project.
  • Ages: Accepts all ages.

Globe Aware

  • Features: Worldwide, week-long volunteer projects.
  • Requirements: Cost and application required, trips are tax-deductible.
  • Ages: All ages accepted, children 15 and under must travel with a parent or guardian.

Projects Abroad

  • Features: Variety of service projects in East Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
  • Requirements: Application required.
  • Ages: Teens and older.

American Hiking Society

  • Features: Week-long trail and park maintenance projects across the U.S.
  • Requirements: Varying fees and registration required.
  • Ages: All ages accepted, volunteers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources:

  • Features: Various volunteer activities for groups and individuals of all ages across Ohio’s 74 state parks.
  • Requirements: None.
  • Ages: All ages accepted.

In the area, common traveling service projects are found most frequently through colleges and churches.

Marietta resident Terry Schmelzenbach is one of many people who found a passion in overseas mission work through his church.

Through the Marietta Church of the Nazarene, Pastor Schmelzenbach has taken multiple trips to Swaziland, Africa, not only to experience the beautiful scenery and wildlife, but to help others.

“We’ve had a presence there since 1908,” Schmelzenbach said. “The Church of the Nazarene has a large base there, and we educate about 32 percent of the people in that country.”

Schmelzenbach said the groups, which typically consist of just fewer than 20 people and with all ages involved, help work on the country’s two colleges and help with various building projects and food needs in the area.

“It’s things as simple as laying and cutting tile for floors and stuff like that for buildings over there,” he said. “When you’re worrying about where your next meal is coming from, you don’t worry about stuff like that.”

The group often takes clothing and food to help out the locals in addition to delivering sermons.

“We turn it into a 50/50 deal,” Schmelzenbach said. “The rest of the time we spend in Kruger (National) Park, where all the safari animals are, and we stay the night there in a fenced-in area.”

Schmelzenbach said he and his wife save up to go on the trips every few years, including one coming up in June.

“The average lifespan is like 32 years of age, and $10 a day is considered a good job, so they know you’re there for them,” he said. “We go over there and feed them, but we also work with them.”

Through organizations like Projects Abroad and Global Aware, people of all ages can pay for tax-deductible vacations connected to national and international service projects.

Through Projects Abroad, which sends some 10,000 volunteers around the world each year, applicants can travel across the world to build schools, teach, conserve wildlife and provide childcare.

Many Projects Abroad trips allow anyone 16 and older to join, while short-term programs like Alternative Break Trips and High School Specials offer similar experiences for college students and teens.

“Alternative Spring Break trips are designed with short-term volunteering in mind and give college students the chance to break away from the usual spring break experience and give the gift of service to those in need,” said Tom Pastorius, the head of recruitment for Projects Abroad.

And Global Aware also offers its own volunteer vacations that provide teaching, clean-up, building and other types of activities within the U.S. and abroad.

Other companies and their respective websites, like and, provide similar matching opportunities to either allow groups and individuals to directly apply for a service project or to provide resources about projects across the nation and how they can get involved.

Marietta resident Kevin Ritter is the owner and founder of Coast to Coast Athletics, a Marietta company established in 2002 that not only provides scholarships to local students, but provides teaching opportunities to children and teenagers around the world.

“On the service side we are involved in baseball clinics, and we’ve done these in Europe, Puerto Rico, Australia and in Florida,” Ritter said.

The program offers $1,000 scholarships to area Washington County students that staff deem college-ready, both to give them a head-start in paying for tuition while also providing an opportunity to teach the sport to their peers and to younger children across the world.

Domestically, a popular volunteer opportunity for outdoor fanatics is through the American Hiking Society.


Voluntourism offers many options

‘Voluntourism’ options available for all budgets and schedules
laos2Many people know all about “voluntourism,” the option of volunteering while traveling. But not all of us can – or have the time to – spend vacation doing more work, even if it’s in a beautiful locale.

However, there’s a growing trend that lets people still kick back during most of their time off but still kick in to help the local community.

Kim-Marie Evans enjoys seeing the world first-hand and sharing it with her children. She finds ways for her family to have a good time but also do good.

“Exposing them not just to the hotel pool and the kids club, but exposing them to the local culture, to the children and getting them a chance to really get to know the locals changes their opinion of what the world is like,” she said.

Her daughter Macie believes this only makes vacation better.

“You got your time to relax but you also did something that was very meaningful and actually got something out of your vacation,” Macie said.

They’ve stumbled upon a new mini-version of “voluntourism” where you donate just a bit of time or supplies instead of dedicating an entire week of work.

“Traditionally, travelers who were attracted to voluntourism were people with a lot of time, say college students or retirees. Now, with a lot more drop-in opportunities for short-term experiences with voluntourism, pretty much anybody can get involved…families, couples,” Anne Banas of Smarter Travel said.
She said the options vary.

"Sometimes it’s as simple as reading to the local school children, donating school supplies, or even helping out at local soup kitchens or making repairs that they otherwise wouldn’t have the resources to do that,” Banas said.
And the opportunities are easy to find.

“You could go through your hotel or resort, as well as cruise lines, theme parks,” Banas said.

“Look toward local tourism boards who are actually doing something, who can advise you,” Jason Clampet of said.
Clampet works for the site, which monitors travel trends. He stresses you really need to do your homework before you go beyond the resort walls. First, be honest about your skills.

"You can fix a paper jam but you probably can’t dig a well, and if you actually can’t offer a specific set of skills, is there money that you can give in a certain instance that can help people who do have those skills,” he said.
If you do decide donating money is best, be careful.

“Sometimes your money’s not actually going to the organization that you’re trying to help, so you really want to make sure you’re dealing with reputable organizations,” Clampet said.
Another suggestion: buy local.

“Shopping at local farmers markets, when you’re eating out at a restaurant, look for mom and pop independently owned,” Clampet said.
Kim-Marie likes doing a bit of everything.

“You get to take home very different memories than if you had spent all of your time at the resort,” she said.
Another tip from you may want to investigate how the company you’re dealing with – whether it’s a cruise line, hotel or theme park – treats its employees, especially if it’s arranging programs for giving back. Skift says that’s a good way to see if they’re truly interested in caring for the community around them or putting together programs for promotional benefits.